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What Shows Up in a Gun Background Check?

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

Given recent tragedies like the Colorado movie theater shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, FBI gun background checks are at an all-time high.

In December alone, the FBI performed nearly 2.8 million background checks on people wanting to buy guns -- a record month in a record-setting year for gun sales, reports CNN.

Ironically, the fear of new laws that may prohibit the sales of certain guns following the mass shootings may have sparked this surge in firearm sales.

But despite record numbers of people getting gun background checks, you may still be uncertain as to what exactly what the government is looking for. Here's a list of some red flags that may alert the authorities, according to the FBI:

  • Criminal convictions that led to imprisonment for one or more years.

  • Being a fugitive or convicted felon who's not allowed to own guns.

  • Addiction to controlled substances.

  • Persons deemed to suffer from a mental disorder.

  • Illegal aliens and those residing unlawfully in the United States.

  • A dishonorable discharge from any branch of the armed forces.

  • Persons subject to a protective or restraining order.

The exact method of the background check will depend upon what state you live in. In general, there are three methods for conducting FBI gun background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS):

  1. Some states will act as the point of contact for the background checks. This means the state conducts the NICS background check, and may supplement that information by checking a state criminal database as well.

  2. In states that decline to serve as the point of contact, the licensed firearm dealer will initiate the background check by contacting the NICS call center. The FBI conducts the NICS check and determines whether or not the transfer would violate state or federal law.

  3. Finally, some states use a hybrid system in which the state handles background checks for handguns, but licensees should contact the NICS for long guns.

Keep in mind that under current law, FBI gun background checks are only required when guns are being sold by licensed firearm dealers. That's one issue being discussed by groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as the debate over gun control continues.

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